Ukrainian Catholics ask for help to save their most emblematic cathedral in kyiv

Ukrainian Catholics ask for help to save their most emblematic cathedral in kyiv
Ukrainian Catholics ask for help to save their most emblematic cathedral in kyiv

Marcel Gascon

kyiv, Jul 6 (EFE).- Ukrainian Catholics are asking for help to save the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in kyiv, one of the most emblematic historic buildings in the capital, which has been deteriorating for years while the State fails to keep its promise to return its ownership to the Church.

“The church is deteriorating every day, inside and out,” the parish priest of the church, Pavló Vishkovski, explains to EFE, under the white awning that protects the parishioners from the small stones and fragments that fall from the roof after decades of abandonment in which hardly any maintenance has been done.

Built in the early 20th century in the neo-Gothic style, St. Nicholas Cathedral has been state property since it was taken over by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in 1938.

Located near a railway station, the building was damaged during World War II. At the end of the war, the Soviet authorities used the church as a warehouse and archive and installed electronic devices in its spires to intercept foreign radios they considered hostile.

In 1980, kyiv was one of the sub-venues of the Moscow Olympic Games. Because of the proximity of St. Nicholas Cathedral to the Kiev Olympic Stadium, the church was converted into a concert hall. A large organ built in Czechoslovakia was installed in the altar and took over the space.

The church remains officially a state-owned concert venue to this day. With Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the Catholic community began holding masses there again, alternating with concerts.

“Since 1991 we have been waiting for the church to be returned to us, as promised by the government,” says Vishkovski. One of these promises was made by the Ukrainian presidency itself to Pope John Paul II when he visited kyiv and St. Nicholas in 1981. “It is officially the National Concert Hall, and we cannot do major repairs because we are not the owners,” he adds with frustration, pointing to the peeling walls.

The deterioration of the walls is mainly due to the fire that completely destroyed the organ that had been installed there before the Games in 2021.

Until then, the State said it could not return the cathedral to the Church because there was no suitable place to move the organ.

The fire put an end to that argument and the State once again set new dates for the transfer. The last of these deadlines expired in May of this year without the ownership of the building having changed hands.

The keys to the cathedral have returned to the hands of Catholics.

“When kyiv was surrounded by the Russians, many people and many institutions left the city,” recalls the priest of the church, whose basement has been used as an air raid shelter since the beginning of the war. “We stayed here and they gave us the keys; after 84 years we had the keys again,” says Vishkovski.

Right next to the altar, in multiple white boxes that form a pyramid, are kept the thousands of signatures collected by this church to request that it be returned to Catholic hands. More than 25,000 people have also signed the petition online.

The peeling facade of St. Nicholas Cathedral is one of the favourite backgrounds of Ukrainian influencers and users of digital social media platforms such as Facebook, Tinder and Instagram.

Photographed from a distance, the cathedral does not reveal the many damages that the passage of time and institutional neglect have caused to its architecture.

In addition to signatures for the change of ownership, Vishkovski and the rest of the community are collecting funds to carry out minor repairs in the hope of stopping the deterioration. But they are aware that the building needs a major work that they only see possible if the cathedral becomes the property of the Church again. EFE


(Photo / Video)

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